US Coins

It takes more than one deal

An unidentified buyer on Nov. 29 purchased for $7,395,000 the unique 1787 Brasher doubloon with New York metalsmith Ephraim Brasher’s EB counterstamp punched on the eagle’s breast.

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The recent announcement that Blanchard and Co. sold the unique 1787 Brasher doubloon with New York metalsmith Ephraim Brasher’s EB counterstamp punched on the eagle’s breast in a private transaction for $7.395 million brings positive attention to the coin hobby, but it is dangerous to read too much into a single transaction.

Surely the market for aesthetically pleasing, historically significant top rarities is strong across most collectible and fine art fields.

But, at least one article has referenced the coin’s last public sale — when it realized $2.99 million at a Jan. 12, 2005, Heritage auction — to imply that all coins have soared in value in the past seven years. While many coins have, thanks to rising bullion markets, many have not, and the performance of a single super-rarity is not necessarily indicative of the coin market as a whole.

Claims that the Brasher, Punch on Breast doubloon is the “world’s most valuable gold coin” are rather speculative, especially considering that the 1933 Saint-Gaudens $20 double eagle allegedly once owned by Egypt’s King Farouk sold at public auction in 2002 for $7,590,020. That coin remains the only example of that issue currently legal to own and the price stands as the highest price of a rare coin at auction. (The record for a private treaty sale is $7.85 million paid for a 1794 Flowing Hair silver dollar in May of 2010.)

The fact that the Langbord trial brought 10 more 1933 double eagles to light arguably doesn’t impact the market level of the one example of the 1933 double eagle that is legal to own, as long as the government continues to hold the coins and maintain that they will not be sold. If anything, one could argue that the trial and resulting media coverage made the 1933 double eagle even more famous.

Yet, marketing the Brasher doubloon as the world’s most valuable gold coin succeeded in attracting mainstream media attention to the sale, with more than 1,000 articles showing up on Google promoting the sale and, in turn, Blanchard.

No one can challenge that seven-figure sales of trophy coins are exciting and help energize the market for rarities. But it takes more than a single transaction to move a market, and one hopes that this single sale doesn’t inspire investors to jump into the market without first educating themselves on the risks and rewards of rare coin investing. ¦

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